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  1. #1
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    Prologue (second Part)

    They lived three miles from town at the end of a seldom-used gravel road and their nearest neighbor was a half-mile away. She wondered, if something happened to them, how long before help arrived? How long before someone missed Danny at the glass factory, or noticed mail piling up in their mailbox?

    Danny laughed. “You think someone stole Smokey? He would’ve chewed their arms off.”

    “Not someone,” she answered. “The Tinman. I think the Tinman’s back and I think he killed Smokey. I think he killed all of them.”

    Now that she’d actually said it, and the words were out there like an unsupported baby who has not yet learned to walk, she realized how lame her theory sounded. Danny was squatting, inspecting Smokey’s chain. His back was to her and she couldn’t see his face, but she sensed his disbelief. After a few moments he rose and turned to face her.

    “Babe, the Tinman is dead. And he didn’t attack pets anyway . . . you should know that.”

    She’d been a high school senior the year of The Tinman killings, so of course she knew. The Tinman hadn’t been interested in pets; his victims had all been high school- and college-aged girls.

    “Okay,” she reluctantly agreed, “it’s not The Tinman. But it’s not a cougar or snake either.”

    Danny thought he knew everything, but Silvermines had gone bad. It wasn’t anything she could put her finger on (it was as if a lunatic had invaded their home only to rearrange things inside by small degrees – moving a coffee-table ashtray two inches to the right, or closing the livingroom blinds that had been left open, or rotating a photo on the bedroom dresser so that it now faced west instead of north). To an outsider’s eye everything in Silvermines would have seemed normal. And the few things that were unusual – like the rocketing number of missing pets and the fact that some of her neighbors were suddenly locking their doors again – could be explained relatively easily. But anyone who were paying attention knew something was off, like a good mother who knows when one of her babies is sick even before its temperature begins to spike.

    Unfortunately, Danny wasn’t one of those people.

    “Jeez, what is that smell?” he asked suddenly, wrinkling his nose.

    She sniffed the air . . . nothing out of the ordinary: someone’s fresh-mown lawn, the earthy smell of the Meyer’s cattle farm a mile west of them, the barbecue Danny had grilled and they’d eaten for supper before going to the video store (the open grill was still throwing off heat and when a breeze stirred, a tiny mouse-sized eye of red blanketed in ash would uncover and wink at her).

    Danny turned and aimed the flashlight into the woods again, playing it left and right, but the batteries in the flashlight were old and the beam vanished before it could escape the lawn. He took three steps in that direction, then froze.

    “Do you see something?” she asked.

    No answer from Danny. He continued to stare off into the woods, mimicking Smokey’s action from Friday night. His posture was stiff, unyielding, his feet spread as if caught in mid step. Something about the awkward unnatural position of his body made her uneasy.

    “It’s not Smokey, is it?” she asked. “He’s not dead?” Now that her fear was about to be confirmed, she didn’t know how she’d ever explain it to Lacey.

    Seconds ticked by; unease rapidly becoming fright.

    “Danny, what is it?”

    The moon was a quarter full, the porch light was on, and the lights from town backlit the night sky, but none of it helped. The darkness was impenetrable. She could see nothing beyond the fence line, certainly not what Danny was staring at. Hands shaking, fear growing in her belly like a malignant tumor, she reluctantly stepped off the porch.

    “Danny?”

    Two steps toward Danny and the odor hit her full force, staggering her. It was an unfamiliar, alien odor (one her mind struggled to classify), something that invited panic and weakened the resolve of the reasoning part of her brain, something that screamed danger and caused her heart rate to accelerate but bid her body to freeze. Fear was too weak a word. Terror was too weak. There was no word strong enough, because what she was feeling wasn’t an emotion, it was the biological equivalent of a smoke detector blaring out a 4 am warning.

    RUN! her brain screamed.

    But she couldn’t run. She couldn’t move. And she wondered if this was how field mice felt when they caught their first fleeting glimpse of a hawk circling above.

    Then, as suddenly as it had arrived, the mysterious odor disappeared. But the effects lingered on. She became nauseous, dizzy. Black spots appeared in her vision. Everything went dark. Her legs gave out and she fell to the grass.

    Moments later.

    Movement. Disorientation. Confusion. Fear. A sense of her arms and legs being disconnected, of being above ground, of being carried.

    “Rachel, you okay?”

    She opened her eyes. It was Danny. Danny was carrying her.

    She tried to reply, but her teeth were chattering and she didn’t know if he could understand. “I’mmmm o-o-kay.”

    “I think you might be having a stroke or a seizure.”

    And she realized it wasn’t only her teeth, her whole body was trembling, twitching. It was as if she’d suddenly developed an advanced case of Parkinsons.

    Danny shifted her body weight, then pulled open the screen door with his right hand. “I’m taking you to the hospital.” He carried her to the livingroom and placed her on the couch.

    “P-p-peed my-s-self,” she stuttered, when she realized how wet her crotch was. “C-c-clothes.”

    “Be right back. I’ll get you a change of clothes and have Lacey get ready.”

    He hurried down the hallway and knocked on Lacey’s door. But not before he made sure both doors were locked, including the deadbolts.

    The next day he returned his horror movie unwatched.



  2. #2
    Rogue Mutt
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    This second part wasn't nearly as clean as the first so a few more notes.
    (it was as if a lunatic had invaded their home only to rearrange things inside by small degrees – moving a coffee-table ashtray two inches to the right, or closing the livingroom blinds that had been left open, or rotating a photo on the bedroom dresser so that it now faced west instead of north).
    I really don’t like that parentheses. You can make it another sentence. And it should be “living room.”

    But anyone who were paying
    Was

    Seconds ticked by; unease rapidly becoming fright.
    Comma not semicolon

    (one her mind struggled to classify)
    Again, not loving the parentheses. You can delete this bit anyway.

    field mice felt when they caught their first fleeting glimpse of a hawk circling above.
    I don’t think field mice would really look up and see the hawk. Better to me is something like: “when the hawk’s shadow fell over it”

    Moments later.
    If she passed out, she wouldn’t know if it’s moments or hours later so this amounts to authorial intrusion.

    He hurried down the hallway and knocked on Lacey’s door. But not before he made sure both doors were locked, including the deadbolts.

    The next day he returned his horror movie unwatched.
    You’re switching your POV for these last couple sentences. And while the last sentence is funny, it’s again authorial intrusion, taking us out of the story’s present to tell us a fact from the future. I’m not sure if you do, but you could write a whole scene out of him going to up there and talking with the kid. Could really use to see something of the kid since she’s mentioned quite a few times. I’m just saying.

    Anyway, whatever that was, it must really reek to literally knock Rachel out.

  3. #3
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    Thanks, Mutt. All valid suggestions/criticisms. I appreciate it. Thanks again.

  4. #4
    Rogue Mutt
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Tinman View Post
    Thanks, Mutt. All valid suggestions/criticisms. I appreciate it. Thanks again.
    You were expecting something less? Hahaha.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue Mutt View Post
    You were expecting something less? Hahaha.
    Lol.

    Hey, I meant to ask. In your critique, on the part I have in parentheses: (It was as if a lunatic . . .); I'm really struggling with that part. I want to keep it, but I wonder if I should delete it. I can't get it to flow right and it looks like one of those sections I'll revisit a month from now and think, what a load of crap.

  6. #6
    Rogue Mutt
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Tinman View Post
    Lol.

    Hey, I meant to ask. In your critique, on the part I have in parentheses: (It was as if a lunatic . . .); I'm really struggling with that part. I want to keep it, but I wonder if I should delete it. I can't get it to flow right and it looks like one of those sections I'll revisit a month from now and think, what a load of crap.
    I don't think you'd lose much by cutting it.

  7. #7
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    “Babe, the Tinman is dead. And he didn’t attack pets anyway . . . you should know that.”

    She’d been a high school senior the year of The Tinman killings, so of course she knew. The Tinman hadn’t been interested in pets; his victims had all been high school- and college-aged girls.
    Because of Part 1, I thought the complete opposite and Tinman was a pet killer. I had no idea he killed humans until now.

    Just a personal note, but I think 3 or 4 pairs of parenthesis is overkill in a short story. I use them in a blue moon, but I don't think I've seen that many in complete novels. For me they're extremely distracting in that amount. Of course, it comes to a matter of style preference.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by leedix View Post
    Just a personal note, but I think 3 or 4 pairs of parenthesis is overkill in a short story. I use them in a blue moon, but I don't think I've seen that many in complete novels. For me they're extremely distracting in that amount. Of course, it comes to a matter of style preference.
    Thanks, Leedix. Actually, it IS a novel; this was only the prologue. Some of the writers I read use parentheses quite a bit, but I do struggle with overuse of parentheses and em-dashes and commas. I don't like using parentheses at all -- as you said, they're distracting -- but sometimes I think they're necessary. If you noticed them in the prologue, then I'm not doing it right. Some day I'll work it out. Thanks again.

  9. #9
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    I think they're just like every "don't do that!"--adjectives, adverbs, prologs, passive voice, etc--they have their place.
    But they becomes noticeable if excessive.

    ...well, I guess prologs can't be excessive...unless it's followed by "--ly boring." Of course, not the case here.

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